BBC Sport - Lewis Hamilton on pole in Australia ahead of Nico Rosberg
Lewis Hamilton on pole in Australia ahead of Nico Rosberg
By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer in Melbourne
Lewis Hamilton took a stunning pole position for Mercedes at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix as McLaren-Honda qualified last.
The world champion beat team-mate Nico Rosberg by more than half a second as Mercedes utterly dominated.
Williams's Felipe Massa beat Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to third.
Meanwhile, McLaren produced their worst performance for six years as their big-budget new engine partnership with Honda got off to a terrible start.
Hamilton's brilliant lap was 0.594 seconds quicker than Rosberg and a massive 1.391secs clear of Massa as Mercedes confirmed pre-season impressions that they will be virtually unbeatable again this season.
Williams driver Felipe Massa will start third on the grid with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel completing the second row in fourth
"It has been a great start to the weekend," Hamilton said. "It doesn't feel that long since the last race. It has been a big rush and huge effort form the factory to get us here with this performance.
"It is so much fun in qualifying and I am just massively grateful for all the hard work."
Rosberg said: "Lewis was on impressive form today. He did an awesome job and nailed the time. For me, the speed was there; I just didn't get it together."
Williams won a tight battle with Ferrari, with just 0.072secs separating Massa in third from Kimi Raikkonen in fifth, with Sebastian Vettel in between in fourth place.
But for all the talk of a Ferrari revival, the Italian team were 1.43secs slower than Hamilton - only 0.2secs closer than they had been last year, when their former driver Fernando Alonso qualified fifth.
Following his move to McLaren, Alonso is missing this race to recover from concussion suffered in an accident in pre-season testing.
But even he would have been able to do nothing about McLaren's poor performance - their faster driver Jenson Button in 16th place was 1.5secs off getting out of the first knock-out phase of qualifying and an effective four seconds slower than Mercedes once the effect of tyres was taken into account.
Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Filipe Massa
Mercedes have locked out the front row at the last nine consecutive races
Button, who beat team-mate Kevin Magnussen by 0.6secs, remained upbeat about the potential of the new partnership with Honda.
"We know we can make big strides with this car," Button said. "When you have a car that feels good underneath you can add downforce to it and that is what we need to do.
"That's not saying downforce is a problem. The car is completely new, and obviously the power unit.
"I feel we can make big strides forward and that's the exciting thing for me. It's going to be a hard new few months but it's worth it. Who knows where we will end up?"
Another team to struggle were former world champions Red Bull, for whom Daniel Ricciardo could manage only seventh fastest, behind Williams's Valtteri Bottas.
Red Bull bosses are furious with engine partner Renault, who have failed to deliver any performance improvements over the winter while the engine is harder to drive than it was last year.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz impressed on his debut with Toro Rosso with eighth place, outdoing team-mate Max Verstappen, who qualified 12th on the occasion of setting a new record for the youngest driver to compete in F1 at 17.
The Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado completed the top 10, as Sauber's Felipe Nasr, another rookie, was a strong 11th.
1. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 26.327s
2. Nico Rosberg GER Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 26.921s
3. Felipe Massa BRZ Williams-Mercedes 1m 27.718s
4. Sebastian Vettel GER Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 27.757s
5. Kimi Raikkonen FIN Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 27.790s
6. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams-Mercedes 1m 28.087s
7. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Red Bull-Renault 1m 28.329s
8. Carlos Sainz Jr ESP Toro Rosso-Renault 1m 28.510s
9. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus-Mercedes 1m 28.560s
10. Pastor Maldonado VEN Lotus-Mercedes 1m 29.480s
11. Felipe Nasr BRZ Sauber-Ferrari 1m 28.800s
12. Max Verstappen NED Toro Rosso-Renault 1m 28.868s
13. Daniil Kvyat RUS Red Bull-Renault 1m 29.070s
14. Nico Hulkenberg GER Force India-Mercedes 1m 29.208s
15. Sergio Perez MEX Force India-Mercedes 1m 29.209s
16. Marcus Ericsson SWE Sauber-Ferrari 1m 31.376s
17. Jenson Button GBR McLaren-Honda 1m 31.422s
18. Kevin Magnussen DEN McLaren-Honda 1m 32.037s
19. Will Stevens GBR Manor Marussia-Ferrari no time
20. Roberto Merhi ESP Manor Marussia-Ferrari no time